Author, TV presenter and card sharp Victoria Coren, right, has decided that the attractions of an all-star poker tournament are too great to resist and has pulled out of the Swindon Festival of Literature which starts on 3 May.
She was due to talk about her book For Richer, For Poorer on 13 May as well as being a judge at the festival Think Slam where people have three minutes to speak their mind.
In a statement Victoria said: “I am miserable to be missing the Swindon Festival of Literature. This is one of those annoying occasions when my weird double life just doesn’t work out. I have been invited to play in a unique poker tournament, where all the winners from the European Poker Tour will take each other on to create a ‘Champion of Champions’. There are only 70 of us in the world.
“As an author, I was already booked in for a proper literary night of talking about books in Swindon and I was looking forward to it. But as a poker player, I know this newly-announced tournament is an absolute one-off, an incredible opportunity that cannot be missed.
“Quite apart from anything else, if I were to miss the tournament, then my fellow poker champions would think I was scared to take them on. We can’t have that.”
By way of apology Victoria has up the stakes at the Think Slam by donating £200 to the prize pot.
Festival director Matt Holland, whilst disappointed, is sanguine about the no show by Victoria Coren. He said, “In a festival of this size, with more than 60 events in a fortnight and almost a hundred authors, speakers, and performers taking part, this sort of thing can happen.
“Victoria was an unusual but exciting inclusion. She was eagerly-awaited but, alas, the money and prestige of a unique world poker tournament outguns our little old festival. We are now busy finding an author of suitable stature to replace her."
However this year’s festival is more focussed on more thought and less fame to get the mind working, a sign of its maturity writes Emily Griffin.
Festival director Matt Holland says, “the festival embraces the age of eighteen focusing on a ‘get up and go’ attitude, by getting festival goers actively involved in new challenges. At 18 we are given the tools, like the vote, to make a difference and find ourselves; I wanted this idea weaved throughout the festival.”
Matt has designed every event to pursue the idea of ‘thinking, challenging, writing and discussing’ with a much greater hands-on approach than previous years.
There are fewer mega star names in the programme, although showbiz storm comedian Harry Hill is almost sold out and talks by historian Michael Wood, former newscaster Peter Sissons, TV presenter Sally Magnusson, who will be talking about The Life of Pee, and journalist and former MP Martin Bell, right, presented in association with Swindon Link magazine, are selling well.
Less famous, but by no means less worthy, this year’s authors, poets and experts have the knowledge and the know-how to inspire and encourage Swindon to get thinking and writing for itself.
Alison Baverstock will demonstrate this on 12 May when she discusses how to write and get published in her talk: ‘Is there a book in you?’
The festival includes the launch of a new magazine Domestic Cherry, created by women, as editor Mabel Watson describes, whilst ‘scrambling over their children or grasping from the bottom of the washing basket.’
From the start Matt gets us into the festival mood with walking, running and cycling events combined with literature, right through to the finale ‘Think Slam’ which gives people three minutes to inspire – the perfect platform to discover if Swindon has risen to the challenge.
Pick up a programme from a Swindon library or call 771080.